Gene Wilder, the two-time Oscar nominated star of “The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” among countless other films, has died at age 83 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, as confirmed by his nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman.
Walker-Pearlman said in a statement (via Variety):
We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones — this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him ‘there’s Willy Wonka,’ would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.
He continued to enjoy art, music, and kissing with his leading lady of the last twenty-five years, Karen. He danced down a church aisle at a wedding as parent of the groom and ring bearer, held countless afternoon movie western marathons and delighted in the the company of beloved ones.
Best known for his collaborations with writer-director Mel Brooks, Wilder worked intermittently on projects since the death of his third wife, Gilda Radner, in 1989, of ovarian cancer. Wilder first met the “Saturday Night Live” legend while filming 1982’s “Hanky Panky,” and worked with her on his first directorial effort, 1984’s “The Woman in Red.” Wilder and Radner later appeared together in “Haunted Honeymoon.”
The legendary comic icon won an Emmy in 2003 for his guest role as Mr. Stein on “Will & Grace.”
Wilder is survived by his fourth wife, Karen Boyer, and his nephew.
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